Measure Community Health With Meaning

December 03, 2019 by Melissa Crowe

Measure Community Health With Meaning

Photo credit: Robert Couse Baker/Flickr

San Bernardino County Department of Public Health Executive Director Trudy Raymundo is known for big, bold ideas.

When the department overhauled HealthStat, a community health indicator dashboard, it became a paradigm shift for how the team approaches data analytics.

"It’s a data evolution — a data revolution," Raymundo said. "The ability for us to be transformative in something as simple as putting out metrics, data, information, and resources … I’m hoping that it’s not just transformative for the department, but for the community."

Raymundo caught up with Tyler Technologies to talk about how her team is leveraging Socrata when it comes to making better use of their data, making smarter decisions, and equipping the public with the tools to make a difference in their communities.

"For me, a healthy community is not just about the people," Raymundo said. "It’s about quality of life, civic engagement, opportunities and access, safety, transportation, education, all those things. Sometimes people think healthy communities is specific to people, but more importantly, it’s about the environment and the opportunities for people to be healthy."

What’s your philosophy when it comes to data-driven government?

First off, you need to be careful. Data for the sake of data can be meaningless and dangerous. Data needs to be meaningful. Data should be used to create action. It should be used to inform or empower. Data is a great way to start a conversation.

We want our data not only to be transparent, but to show what we’re doing. We want to create real action around it, improvement, innovation, and accountability.

The other thing for me around data is sometimes the best data is bad data — not inaccurate data, but data that says you’re not meeting the outcomes you intended. Those are the things that drive improvement. If everything was green and we put out performance metrics that said we met every goal, I don’t know where you go from there. We have the ability to not just be transparent, but to be incredibly accountable.

This is all about going through a process of evaluating and improving. The ability to fail forward is one of the best things you can have. The minute you become comfortable failing forward, it creates a whole different culture. I want to encourage staff to try.

HealthStat tracks progress on eight performance categories. Community improvement explores healthy eating, active living, and safe environments with metric card that expands to data stories with detailed information on why the topic is important, work the county is doing, and progress is making. It also has more information and actionable steps site visitors to take.

Has using Socrata impacted workflows for your team?

What really excited me about Socrata was being able to create meaningful data — data that I intended to take action or that I’m asking the community to take action on. The other piece that excited me about Socrata was the ability to use it as a platform for engaging the community and other sectors. We were able to show how actions and decisions by one sector could possible affect all of the other sectors.

We were able to talk about the story of how education and educational attainment affects individual and community health. We were able to talk about how decisions by the transportation authority affect individual health, decisions about our built environment and public safety. And we did it with data.

You can see the effects of increasing bikeways and walkways, what happens when we have food deserts, and what happens to those communities and their health. We were able to engage other sectors through this, and now with Citizen Connect, I’m hoping to also engage residents in the process. I want them engaged in the data. I want them empowered by the data we’re able to put out there, and to act as their own public health advocate and go into their own communities or governing boards jurisdictions and city councils.

We often ask the communities to act on certain things, it’s important that we give them the resources to do that. By giving them back the data, we’re giving them the resources to act as their own advocates.

What are you most proud of accomplishing with this initiative?

Beyond the metric cards, this has been one of the biggest changes in terms of perception. It changed my paradigm around the idea of metrics, performance, and improvement that often times the metrics that show you need improvement are the greatest opportunities for improvement. And it’s really exciting to see a shift in my staff wanting to see the things they’re generating.

I have a huge staff — 900 folks who do something on a daily basis and being able to see the impact of their work and knowing that the community can see the impact of their work…. Being able to take a step back and also say maybe we should stop doing what we did yesterday and start thinking about what we need to do tomorrow, next week or next year.

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